Sunday, January 17, 2016

The X-Files - Series Highlights (Part 4)

a.k.a. Doggett X-Files

(View Part 1 for an introduction to this series).

Warning: I will repeat the spoiler warning I used for the last installment. While I don't intend for this post to be especially spoilerry, those viewers wishing to be totally surprised by what they find in a given episode (especially as regards which episodes certain characters appear in, or survive unto) may want to skip over the text passages and, if trusting my episode selection, merely browse the episode titles for a guide to what to watch.

Season 8 (6 episodes)

Via Negativa
Per Manum
Three Words
Essence / Existence

Curriculum: Eight is a very consistent season, which makes it hard to pick favorites. Choosing what I think are the season's best freak-of-the-week episodes - Roadrunners, which focuses on Scully's ordeal in a remote desert town, and Via Negativa, which explores the psychological ramifications of investigating weird cases on newcomer Agent Doggett - is one thing, but the latter half of the season blurs the line between mythology and freak-of-the-week more credibly than at any other point in the show's history, on account of the need to explain Mulder's re-appearance, and the gradual passing of the torch to the show's soon-to-be new leads. Thus, it's hard to watch episodes à la carte and be able to follow the continuing storyline. Nevertheless, I've picked out Per Manum - which explores the most interesting of many possible explanations for Scully's condition in this season, and Three Words, which is probably the best conspiracy episode of the season, as highlights. The two-part season finale, Essence/Existence, is also essential viewing, as it represents something of an emotional closure to the classic, Mulder/Scully era of the series.

Extracurricular Episodes (Mythology): I wouldn't call it a spectacular set of episodes, but Within/Without is worth viewing for anyone curious to see Doggett's introduction to the show. I realize that most viewers will be tempted to watch This Is Not Happening, in order to see how Mulder returns to the series. It's not a bad episode at all - and it also features the introduction of Agent Reyes - although watching it will make it just about impossible not to conclude the cliffhanger by watching the followup episode, Deadalive - which isn't as good. Anyone watching these will be more filled in for Three Words and Essence/Existence, but it really wouldn't be fair for me to include them all as highlights in what is - despite being unexpectedly good - not one of the best, classic seasons of The X-Files.

Extracurricular Episodes (Freak-of-the-week): If you're looking for some more solid standalones, Invocation (which hints at a tragedy in Doggett's past) and Medusa (wherein Doggett tracks a supernatural killer through a subway tunnel) are both good early ones. Brave viewers may be up to the challenge of Badlaa, which is notorious for its ridiculous premise (about a "munchkin" who hides inside people's bodies) and demonstration of poor taste. Toward the end of the season, there are some standalones with minor mythology content worth viewing, if you have the time. Empedocles dives head first into the above-mentioned tragedy in Doggett's past, while Vienen pits Doggett and Mulder together on the show's last mission involving the Black Oil. Finally, Alone is a touching freak-of-the-week episode (featuring a character that is an homage to the series' fans) that passes the torch of the X-Files from Mulder and Scully to Doggett.

Season 9 (3/4 episodes)

The Truth

Curriculum: In truth, very little of the series post-Mulder is "essential" viewing, and so, keeping that in mind, I've limited my selections from the mediocre ninth season considerably. 4-D is, in my opinion, a great episode to get the unique flavor of this era of The X-Files, and while Doggett got to shine in season 8, this episode puts Reyes at the front of the action. Whether you like her or not, she deserves at least one chance to prove herself on this list. I would call Release, which finally closes the case on Doggett's son, one of the [few] standout episodes of this season, once again sold by Robert Patrick's acting talent. And while most of the mythology in this season is utterly skippable, the double-length series finale, The Truth, is not to be missed - for obvious reasons, as it brings Mulder back, ties nine years of mythology together, and finally concludes the show.

Extracurricular Episodes (Mythology): Be forewarned, the mythology in the ninth season is at an all-time low for the series. If, however, you are curious about the whole William storyline - which constitutes the central theme of this season's mythology - the arc carries from the dreadful Trust No 1, through Provenance/Providence, which is mildly better, and then wraps up in William, which isn't terrible, but leads to a potentially frustrating conclusion. As its title helpfully suggests, Nothing Important Happened Today is not worth watching at all.

Extracurricular Episodes (Freak-of-the-week): If you're not biased against the Doggett and Reyes partnership, and are curious to see some of their other cases together, Audrey Pauley and Underneath are both very good bread-and-butter X-Files, in my opinion. Vince Gilligan's John Doe, in which Doggett wakes up with amnesia in a Mexican slum town, is also one the season's standout episodes, although it's barely paranormal, and hardly feels like The X-Files. Daemonicus, Hellbound, and Scary Monsters are also worth a look if you've got the time. Fans of The Lone Gunmen (especially the spinoff series) will not want to miss Jump The Shark, even though I wouldn't call it a great episode. And though I didn't like it very much, your opinion of the somewhat sappy Sunshine Days, featuring the Brady Bunch house (yes, the Brady Bunch house), may be better than mine.

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